These are educated, accomplished individuals with significant assets to protect, and yet they think nothing of drafting their own estate planning documents. They do this at the risk of wreaking havoc down the road when their estate is administered. Not to mention the increased legal fees that their heirs will pay. They may have saved a few bucks now, but their heirs may incur large legal bills when they need to unravel the mess left behind.
· Bill did a fairly good job drafting a simple will. However, one of the most important aspects of a will is how it is signed and whether it is self-proving. Self-proving means that the will has an affidavit signed by a notary public stating that the will was properly signed and witnessed and that it is the will of the person who signed it. Each state has its own laws for how wills must be signed in order to be valid. If the will is not properly executed, it could be declared invalid by the court. If it is not self-proving, the heirs will face challenges in getting the court to approve the will. Unfortunately, Bill’s will was not self-proving. His heirs all got along and did not dispute the will itself, but they ultimately spent a lot more in legal fees probating his estate because of the additional hoops the court made them jump through.
· In another situation, an accountant signed a prenuptial agreement with his new wife providing for her in the event of his death. The accountant then took it upon himself to draft his own will and trust. The estate plan was ambiguous and not consistent with the prenuptial agreement. After his death, his wife and children fought for years over what the estate plan meant and its impact on the prenuptial agreement resulting in large legal bills for each side.